Indie maven weaves among giants

Haber employs a special edge to play against H'w'd

There are movies, primetime series, minis and made-fors — and then there is everything else.

One of the few indie distribs who has thrived in handling “everything else” is Alfred Haber, who runs his eponymous company from New Jersey and is a fixture at trade shows and the Screenings.

Haber has been zigging while the Hollywood majors zag for 38 years, supplying the odd series, event special, reality fare and award show to the international TV marketplace.

“Forget all that about it being a relationship business, where socializing is part of the game,” he says. The irrepressible Haber insists he has “zero social relationships.” Rather, he spends his time figuring out how to get into the minds of potential clients and concocting ways to sell better.

Apparently he’s largely managed to do both. Having seen the indie distrib scene decimated over the last decade, Haber has assembled a portfolio of product ranging from key award shows such as “The Country Music Awards” and “The Miss Universe Pageant” to “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “When Pets Go Bad.” His latest winner, which he says his staff first brought to his attention and championed, is “The World Poker Tour.”

His sales team is a lean-and-mean dozen or so strong, and he himself spends a lot of time on planes. He uses no sales agents and teaches his staff to hone in on what every buyer they deal with needs.

One thing that will get a staffer fired, Haber says, is to waste time during those crucial half-hour meetings at markets by asking a buyer, “How was your trip?” By the time they finish telling you about their lost luggage and what-not, they’re scurrying out of the booth to head to Warners or Fox, he explains.

Haber is a pragmatist who realizes that he needs a special edge to play against the Hollywood heavyweights. He also has chutzpah, having kickstarted his company years ago by outbidding and outfoxing the big guys for foreign rights to “The Grammy Awards.” (Warners, which had repped the show abroad for 20 years, didn’t speak to Haber for years thereafter.)

As a young lawyer and songwriter in the 1960s, Haber caught the showbiz bug, at one point repping both Elvis Presley and the Jefferson Airplane for RCA Records. It was during a stint with NBC Enterprises that he got his first taste of the foreign marketplace and its challenges.

Haber says prices paid by over-the-air broadcasters for specialty fare is “stable” these days, but that pay cablers (albeit starting from a lower base) are paying increasingly more for such shows.

As for the Screenings, Haber says he comes to town to meet with producers whose shows he has repped over the years. “I have to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on. There’s no stopping in this business.”

Among the companies Haber has repped product from are Playboy, Fox, the BBC MGM, Radio City Entertainment, Sony Music, even 7-Eleven and Ringling Bros.

His sales team will be ensconced in the Century Plaza. “Trust me, they have back-to-back meetings lined up with buyers; otherwise we wouldn’t be here,” Haber says.

Among the likely hot-tickets are “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Ghost Hunters” as well as the aforesaid poker tournament.

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